Alan Shearer has come out and said that he would one day like to manage England. According to the Newcastle legend, it is the top job in management and to turn it down would be crazy. It is almost certainly the highest pressured job in football, a job that has broken men with much more managerial experience than Shearer.
The man who is adored by those in the Gallowgate End at St. James Park has had only one job in management. That was the ill-fated 8 game tenure in charge of his beloved Newcastle United, and he confesses that he is far from ready for such a job, and may even drop into the lower leagues in order to learn his trade.
But his comments do raise the question as to who will take over the top job when its current incumbent, Fabio Capello, steps down after the European Championship in 2012. So who are the contenders?
The current bookies favourite and apparent peoples champion is Harry Redknapp. He has achieved considerable success with Tottenham, achieving qualification for the UEFA Champions League, and is said to have excellent man management skills. That quality could be crucial in an England squad which has seemed to lack a motivator when things were not going their way. Redknapp would be the anti-Sven Goran-Eriksson in that sense, not afraid to shout at the players to get a response, but also aware that some players need to an arm around the shoulder to get the best out of them. It has long been said that Redknapp’s business dealings and ongoing investigations into his finances could count against him when going for the top job, but public pressure might be too strong to go against.
Roy Hodgson would almost have been a shoe-in for the post had the job been available after the 2010 World Cup debacle. In the two seasons previously he had led Fulham to 7th in the Premier League, the highest finish in their history, and taken them to the final of the Europa League. However, a failed move to Liverpool, where he could get neither the players nor the supporters on his side, damaged his reputation. He is doing his best to fix it at West Brom, and has begun well, having helped his side romp to safety in last years Premier League following Roberto di Matteo’s sacking. Hodgson is considered to be one of the soundest tacticians in football, and has a good relationship with many current managers, including Sir Alex Ferguson. The FA could do worse then select Hodgson as their man.
There can be no debate about any of the top jobs in football without a mention for the Special One. Jose Mourinho seems to have gone a bit quiet over at Real Madrid in the last few weeks, which probably means we should be prepared for an outrageous comment or two soon. His credentials speak for themselves – two Portuguese titles, two Premier League titles, two Scudetto’s and two Champions Leagues, not to mention what he could win this year with Real. He is a proven winner and a great motivator. But would he be too controversial for the FA? It is doubtful that after Capello that they or the English public would want another foreign manager, especially such an outspoken one, but Mourinho is so engrained in our national consciousness after his spell at Chelsea that he almost feels like one of our own.
A man who hasn’t been in management for some time now is Martin O’Neill, and he seems to be linked with every managerial job going. Widely seen as one of the games great man managers and motivators, and with enthusiasm aplenty, O’Neill would be a popular choice. However, his self imposed exile from the game since he left Aston Villa in 2010 could work against him. The game may have moved on too much in that time for him to be seriously considered. O’Neill was said to be front runner before Steve McClaren was appointed but, it is reported, he refused to rule out dropping David Beckham, something the FA could not tolerate at the time. A similar sort of shake up of the England team now might be just what the country needs.
Of the rest of the managers, there is no real genuine contender. Alan Curbishley was often talked about as a future England manager when over achieving at Charlton but he has been in the wilderness longer than O’Neill. Alan Pardew is quickly building a reputation at Newcastle, guiding them to their current fourth place despite great scepticism when he was appointed last year, but he is too unproven for such a job. Sir Alex Ferguson will spend his last days with Manchester United and Rafael Benitez wants to manage a Premier League club, not England.
One man who ought not to be discounted completely however is a man who is having some problems at his current club. Arsene Wenger may soon be out of a job, one way or the other, if things do not pick up at Arsenal, and a coach of his calibre could be just what England’s youngsters need in order to get them competing at the same level as the technically superior nations such as the World Champions Spain. It is highly unlikely that Wenger would be tempted by the role, but football’s a funny old game. Whoever it is that takes charge of the side after next summer, they will be under the most intense scrutiny imaginable from the press and the public. It might be the top job, but is it the most desirable?
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